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Major re-think urged in key elements of Swiss foreign policy

Political scientists have called for an overhaul of key elements of Swiss foreign policy, following a new study. Their comments received a cautious endorsement from the foreign minister, Joseph Deiss.

The scientists' comments, on Friday, come after a four-year study funded by the National Science Foundation to determine the scope and scale of Swiss foreign policy.

They focused on two key concepts - Swiss neutrality, and the perception that Switzerland's small size is a limiting factor in its foreign policy aspirations.

The scientist in charge of the study, Laurent Goetschel, said both ideas needed re-thinking in light of changing global realities.

He said Switzerland's size - while geographically fixed - should not be seen as restrictive given the growing influence wielded by small states cooperating together.

On the sensitive issue of Swiss neutrality, the study urged Switzerland to actively seek involvement in international arenas both on an ad hoc basis - by offering its "good offices" in situations where it could be helpful - and by working more closely with organisations such as the United Nations.

Goetschel said it was important for Switzerland to engage the outside world if it was to influence events. He said this was especially the case with the European Union, to which Switzerland does not belong.

The study's findings were supported by Foreign Minister Deiss, who said he was "tempted to say that Swiss foreign policy will never be the same again in light of the study".

Goetschel also said Swiss foreign policy had to assume a more moral dimension. He said human rights and the interests of business often came into conflict, and that more attention should be paid to the views of the cantons, parliament, interest groups and NGOs.

swissinfo with agencies

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